Pirates: Truth and Tales by Helen Hollick
“…A rich and lively vocabulary, with snippets of interesting facts about pirates and piracy that you never knew you needed to know, but which are all recounted with the authors sparkling wit and fine attention to detail… whichever page the book falls open at, you are guaranteed to find a fascinating snippet into the life and times of these colourful, and it must be said, decidedly, dangerous characters.”
“.. A highly entertaining mine of fascinating information about all things piratical.”
“Helen Hollick has an inimitable style which informs at the same time as being amusing and easily digestible.”
Helen has written a series of nautical Voyages based around her fictional pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his ship, Sea Witch, but her latest UK release in paperback is a non-fiction book – Pirates: Truth and Tales published by Amberley Press, which explores our fascination with the real pirates and those who are favourites in fiction. Today, Helen drops anchor for another interesting addition to her on-line two-week Voyage around the Blogs …
Mention ‘pirates’ to adults or children and a smile broadens the face and the clichéd ‘Arrr’ erupts from the lips. The romance of fiction, TV shows and big-screen movies have influenced our perception of the Caribbean pirates of the ‘Golden Age’ of the early 1700s. We have a romantic view of a life ‘On the Account’, we think of Jack Sparrow from the Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean, or Captain Pugwash from the beloved children’s TV cartoon series. Do we care that these romantic portrayals are very far from the truth about pirates? Reality has its place, but for entertainment we like handsome heroes and pretty heroines. We enjoy the breath-taking alarm of make-believe danger and engrossing adventurous romps. Pirate stories give us the (safe) excitement we crave. Pirates seek treasure – don’t we all? How many of us hope for that winning lottery ticket every week? Although we don’t commit torture and murder to get it.
Pirates were on a get-rich-quick mission and had no scruples about how they did it, as long as they had silver in their pockets to spend in the taverns and brothels. In stories, their ships are usually pristine and fast, the flag fluttering menacingly from the masthead is always a pair of crossed bones or cutlasses beneath a leering skull. Pirates wore a gold hooped earring, they drank rum, had swashbuckling fights with lethal cutlasses (which the hero in stories always won), lusted after buxom wenches and escaped the hangman at the very last minute.
But what about the real pirates?
To answer that question, and also to satisfy the passion of readers of the romantic fictional side of piracy, was my goal in producing Pirates: Truth and Tales when Amberley commissioned me to write it. I think I managed it. I wanted to write a ‘drop in at any chapter’ book. Mostly light-hearted, easy to read and with an ‘Oh, I didn’t know that’ feel. There are a lot of factual pirate books on the shelves in bookstores and on Amazon. I wanted something that might not necessarily be unique, but certainly very different.
What I came up with were factual chapters ranging from the famous pirates, such as Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney and Mary Read and such, with a few not-so-well-knowns all running (sailing?) alongside more general seafaring chapters of interest: what they wore, what did they plunder, where and how did they sell it? Where did they get their ships from – and what type of ships did they use? Interspersed with all that, I investigated the fiction; the favourite novels such as Treasure Island and Frenchman’s Creek, my own Sea Witch Voyages series of nautical adventures that have a touch of fantasy about them, plus a few more excerpts from pirate novels by other authors, the fiction complimenting the factual, and bringing in an alternative perspective for the reader to enjoy.
The result is a delightful mixture of the romantic and the reality. The swashbuckling movie and novel versions of pirates, and the not-so-nice horror of what these men (and women) were really like.
I have to admit – honest pirate – give me the made-up romance version of pirates any day!
Helen Hollick's new paperback edition of Pirates: Truth and Tales is available for purchase now.
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